KILLEAD woman Beth McCabe has described working with street children in Rio de Janeiro as a 'humbling' and 'rewarding' experience.
Beth, a member of Killead Parish Church, was apart of a team organised by church army which went to help the Reencontro project.
It helps young children from the shanty towns who would otherwise end up abandoned, begging on the streets and, quite possibly, being exploited into drugs and prostitution.
Beth funded her own trip and raised £6,070 from a variety of fireside quizzes, a table quiz, a supermarket bag pack, a Chinese banquet, a craft fair, car boot sale, coffee morning and various donations which went directly to the Reencontro Day Care project in Niteroi via South American Mission Society (SAMS) based in Lurgan.
Children attend the day care at the Reencontro project where they get help with education, games, medical checks and have one nutritious meal per day. This means they are kept off the streets and away from the clutches of drug dealers and prostitution.
Beth said the trip had been the experience of a lifetime. She spent most of her time painting and maintaining the day care facilities run by Reencontro.
"The whole trip presented a tremendous opportunity for me to contribute in some small way to help the street children of Nitero," said Beth.
"It was just amazing to meet people on the other side of the world who have so very little and yet give so much. Workers carry on working even when there isn't enough money to pay them.
"We worked in two day care facilities —Mariana Macario and Boa Vista — in the favelas of Niteroi - painting classrooms, bathrooms and shower areas, a dining room, corridors, a stairway and a fence in the playground area at Mariana Macario which was was only 2 feet high."
Beth also had to overcome a language barrier to help run a holiday Bible Club for the children.
"All our written resource material was translated for us and the Bible stories were told in Portuguese," said Beth. "We even managed to teach the children one song 'Our God is a Great Big God' in English which they loved to sing for us.
"The excitement and delight in the smiling faces of the children as they joined in the games and to see how they sat engrossed listening to the Bible stories being read to them was so rewarding for us."
While the group were in Reencontro they also ran a social action day at Boa Vista Day Care for local people. The group's job was to entertain the children. "We took the children to the zoo on two day trips and what an exciting adventure for those kids, some of whom had never been on a bus before or been outside their favela, to go on such a trip," Beth said. "The voices of excitement, the buzz, the expressions on their faces. They were so thrilled even to be given ice lollies and bags of sweets and goodies Their hugs, kisses, wanting to be close to us and hold our hands showed us so clearly their sincere and grateful thanks. "
Beth continued: "We also painted the whole inside of a house and replaced some doors for an English-born mission worker who has adopted seven street children and brought them up alongside her own two children.
She has worked tirelessly to keep her children, as well as contributing her support to Reencontro where possible.
"Five of her adopted children are still dependent, three of them in their teens still at school, including one daughter with a baby under a year old.
'Another daughter, Rachel, spent a lot of time with us as our interpreter and helping us with painting and other work. We were so privileged to be able to do something practical and essential to fulfil a real need.
"We certainly came home so much richer for having achieved what we did and knowing that the monies we raised were helping to give the street children a slightly better start to life in Christian surroundings."